Colorful fireworks blasted off in the distance from Memorial Stadium as part of the Homecoming Glow Run festivities during the first half of IU's match against Iowa Thursday night.
The fireworks, visible from Bill Armstrong Stadium, were a fitting celebration for how the night would end for the IU women's soccer team.
Freshman goalkeeper Bethany Kopel recorded a career-high 12 saves to anchor the Hoosier defense in a 2-1 win over the Hawkeyes.
It was IU’s second Big Ten win of the season and came in a match the Hoosiers couldn’t afford to lose if they wanted to remain in Big Ten Tournament contention.
“I’m disappointed that we gave up a goal in those last four minutes,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “We didn’t play very well tonight but I thought that we fought and gave it 100 percent. There’s a lot of things that we need to clean up by Sunday, but I’m really happy that we were able to pick up the points.”
Junior forward Maya Piper got the sparks flying early for IU.
In the eighth minute after a corner kick, the ball was cleared out and senior midfielder Kayla Smith made a beautiful pass down the middle of the field into the penalty box to find Piper, who scored to give the Hoosiers early momentum.
“I think that was huge for us,” Berbary said. “We’ve made a point to try to get ahead first.”
The remainder of the first half saw Kopel dominate. Iowa pressed for an equalizer, but each time the Hawkeyes had an opportunity, Kopel was there to stop it. At one point, the Hawkeyes had three consecutive corner kicks, but still couldn’t find the back of the net.
Iowa almost scored in the 44th minute, but Kopel was there again to tip the ball off the crossbar to give IU a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“I just like to work on one shot at a time,” Kopel said. “Every time there’s another shot that comes off, you save it and forget about it. That ball didn’t count anymore, now you have to be prepared for the next one.”
The Hawkeyes were resilient in the second half. Iowa was never short of opportunities to get back into the game. But it was still the same story.
In the 71st minute Kopel blocked three shots in a row during a hectic chain of events during which an Iowa goal seemed to be a formality. But still, Kopel was there to keep IU in front.
“I didn’t even know what was happening,” Kopel said. “I just saw the ball and noticed that it wasn’t in the back of the net, I needed to keep going.”
Senior defender Kylie Kirk gave IU a two-goal advantage off a free kick with nine minutes left.
Kirk's tally would prove to be the winning goal after the Hawkeyes finally found the back of the net in the 85th minute after senior midfielder Karly Stuenkel slipped one past Kopel. Iowa kept pushing until the end, but a save in the dying seconds secured the victory for IU.
“Bethany was huge for us,” Berbary said. “That kid basically stood on her head today. I was just disappointed that we couldn’t get a shutout.”
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Hoosiers, but it was a much-needed one. IU looked outplayed for most of the night, but the heroic play of Kopel proved to be the difference.
Up next for IU will be the Nebraska Cornhuskers as part of Senior Day this Sunday. Nebraska is coming off an overtime win Wednesday over Purdue.
“I think that we know that we have to play better and it’ll help us that we’ll be back at home,” Berbary said. “It’s the first time that we’ve won at home in a while and it's Senior Day, Alumni Day and we’ve got a lot of things to play for so we want to send our seniors out in style on Sunday.”
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